Why Not Let the Sales Team Conduct Depth Interviews in the Marketing Channels?

Some clients question the need for conducting depth interviews in the marketing channels – interviewing independent distributors, retailers, dealers and agents.

Clients say they get channel information from their direct sales force.

Research Bias

The problem is that information is biased. It skews, slants, and twists results.

When a company salesperson interviews someone in the channel, bias enters the conversation.

In fact, at a general level, there are several forms of bias, including biased questions, biased answers, interviewer bias, and biased reporting.

At a specific level, acceptance bias, sponsor bias, reference bias, and hostility bias creeps into the conversation when salespeople interview channels.

The marketing channels view the company sales rep as a salesperson, whose goal is to sell. During the interview the salesperson is also trying to figure out how to make the next sale. The channel does not view the company salesperson as a neutral collector of information.

The channel is always negotiating with the company salesperson, so the channel skews answers or withholds important information about themselves and your competitors. There are exceptions, but when salespeople interview their customers, bias is more often the case than not.

When the salesperson reports the interview, the influence of sales quota and the sales report seeps into the marketing research report. When a sales rep is sandbagging or struggling with sales quota, interview information is likely to support his or her monthly or weekly sales report. The sales and marketing research reports align. And so, the research report skews, bends, or omits.

Besides, you want your salespeople selling, not wasting their time interviewing and writing marketing research reports.

Blind Studies

The best way to find out about channel attitudes and behaviors towards products and brands is to conduct blind interviews. The identity of research sponsor (company) is unknown to the channel. Blind interviews reduce several forms of bias and provide an independent picture.

Use moderators unknown to the marketing channel...a product manager, marketing manager, or professional moderator.

And don’t reveal the sponsor’s (company) name. If you need to reveal sponsor identity, do so late in the interview. Blind studies reduce bias.

Compare blind interviews to sales team reports.

Look for gaps, surprises, and confirmation of information and knowledge.

Read the article about research bias.

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